President of Ukraine

Address by the President of Ukraine on the occasion of the Day of Dignity and Freedom

21 November 2021 - 09:00

Address by the President of Ukraine on the occasion of the Day of Dignity and Freedom

Fellow Ukrainians!

There are about five thousand peoples on our planet. Their portrait, archetype, mentality is a confusing web of historical events for ethnographers. But there is one thing that, in my opinion, simply yet accurately depicts the character of the people. This is his national holidays. What unites everyone is important to everyone. November 21 is just such a day. The answer to the questions: who are Ukrainians and what is most important for them?

Today we celebrate the Day of Dignity and Freedom. A holiday that shows that dignity and freedom is a holiday for us. This is our air.

No. It doesn't sound too loud. When someone decides to restrain us, that's when it's too loud. When the authorities do not hear the Ukrainian people, then it is too loud.

That is why we are free. Free to create the future. And we should be proud of that. We shouldn’t act superior. But we should not lower our eyes as well. Yes. We have paid and continue to pay a high price for freedom. And we will never forget all those who gave their lives for Ukraine. And we will never forgive all those who took their lives and wanted to deprive us of our freedom. But the main thing is that they didn’t succeed and will never succeed.

And it's time to change self-perception and thinking. We are not victims, we are not oppressed, we are not divided, we are not captured. We are beautiful, strong, brave, smart, talented people. Invincible.

Precisely because we have dignity. For us, slavery is a humiliation. Loss of freedom is a loss of honor. Loss of honor is a loss of the heart. Loss of the heart is a loss of the soul. And loss of the soul for us is a loss of life. That is why we are ready to fight at the cost of our own lives. In order not to lose our life.

For us, dignity and freedom have long gone beyond common understanding. I will never forget the story our sailors told when they returned home. They were in captivity, but they were not captivated by the spirit. Investigators asked them to laugh a little quieter: "The authorities will not understand".

People usually cry here, and our sailors laugh incessantly. They sat in a paddy wagon, sang the national anthem and then told the driver: "Boss, to Odesa! In Koblevo, let’s have a break and get some coffee."

They did not behave like captives. And they remained officers and soldiers. Because they have not lost their dignity. And they proved that in a foreign land, in captivity, in prison, you can be a free person. Because freedom is not the absence of handcuffs. This is the absence of prison in their heads.

Vasyl Stus knew this for sure. When a wave of arrests of creative youth swept through Ukraine, at the premiere of Parajanov's “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors”, he stood up and said: "Everyone who opposes arrests, stand up." A few people got up, then more, then more. Not all. But he was not alone. Stus knew that by doing so, he could lose his freedom. But he knew that if he didn't, he would definitely lose his dignity.

Omelyan Kovch also knew this. A priest who rescued Jews in the Holocaust by giving them baptismal records. For this he was sent to the Majdanek concentration camp. And in order not to lose dignity, he was forced to lose his freedom forever. In the letter, he apologized to his children for not agreeing to early release and staying there. "These people need me here. Feeling that they will soon die, they all come to me for confession. If I go, they will be left without hope. They have already been deprived of dignity, honor, freedom, home, relatives, names, they will soon be deprived of their lives. I will not allow taking away their hope."

Leonid Bykov did not give up principles and creative freedom. For this, for the filming of the "Only "Old Men" Are Going Into Battle" he was given not a color but a black-and-white film. Did this damage his dignity? Maybe. But did he lose it? No. And he made a film that is adored by millions. Not colored.

But about people who have dignity. And freedom.

Like everyone who stood on Maidan, on the barricades, on the granite. In 1990, in 2004 and 2014.

Like those who then met in the trenches in the east of our state, defending it.

All. Different. The guys from the West, and the guys from the Southeast.

Speaking different languages. Residents of Volyn, Odesa, Galicia, Dnipro, Zakarpattia, Bukovyna. With the cross, with the crescent, with the star of David. From Kharkiv, from Ternopil, from Kryvyi Rih, from Ivano-Frankivsk.

Cherkasy, Vinnytsia, Mykolaiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kherson, Khmelnytskyi, Zaporizhzhia. From Kyiv. From Donbas, from the Luhansk region, from Crimea.

All. Different. But Ukrainians. Defenders. Everyone who knows: you have to be worthy, not give up. Because Ukrainians are not used to giving up. Because they have dignity. And therefore - freedom!

Glory to Ukraine!